Ohio farmers rely on bees to pollinate more than 70 crops, but 50 to 80% of the honeybees raised by Ohio’s registered beekeepers died last winter. Researchers suggest a number of reasons for this phenomenon, including the loss of the flowering habitat bees need to strengthen and grow their colonies.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture agency responsible for helping landowners protect their farms and forests, now has a program to increase honeybee habitat. Called the Honeybee Pollinator Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), this program will allow NRCS to design honeybee friendly habitat with landowners, plus help them cover some of the cost of creating it.
Agricultural producers with cropland, pastureland, forestland, and farmsteads in the following 24 Ohio counties can apply for the Pollinator EQIP: Allen, Ashtabula, Auglaize, Cuyahoga, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Mercer, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams, Wood, and Wyandot.
Farmers can create flowering habitat without taking a whole field out of crop production by planting borders around fields or along streams, planting flowering trees, or mixing flowering plants into pastures. NRCS recommends using flowering plants native to Ohio, such as pasture rose, Canadian milk vetch, slender bush-clover, and many others. To provide a continuous source of flower pollen and nectar, it’s best to use a seed mix containing flowers that bloom at different times throughout the growing season.
Certain pesticides or pesticides applied improperly appear to contribute to the decline in honeybees, so NRCS encourages limited or no use of pesticides on or near honeybee habitat. NRCS also encourages keeping bees hives, called apiaries, nearby. Ohio has 4,390 registered beekeepers with 7,199 apiaries across the State.
Call or visit your county NRCS office to fill out a program application by July 18, 2014. Visit the Ohio NRCS website for office telephone numbers and addresses or look in the Federal Government section of your telephone directory.
Visit the NRCS website at www.nrcs.usda.gov for information on pollinators, their habitat, and how you can help on your farm or in your backyard.